Maine winter sports enthusiasts have had plenty of reasons to cheer recently as two Carrabassett Valley Academy graduates have combined to win four Olympic medals in Vancouver.
Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H., has won three medals — a gold, a silver and a bronze — in alpine skiing while Seth Wescott of Farmington earned his second straight snowboard cross gold.
Wescott has gained a reputation as one of his sport’s good guys. He’s smart, polished and media-savvy.
Sponsors love him. Fans love him. Talk show hosts love him. Heck, Matt Lauer of the Today Show even hugged him.
Miller? That’s another story altogether.
Interviewing Bode Miller, I quickly learned a few years ago, isn’t much different than trying to hug a porcupine.
You can do it … if you’re careful.
But even if everything goes well, you might end up walking away from the experience feeling like you’ve been skewered.
The Miller I met four years ago doesn’t let reporters put words in his mouth, no matter how innocuous the question may seem to the interviewer.
Not a bad trait, all in all.
But most interview subjects choose to dodge or avoid the questions that are posed ungracefully. They let interviewers off the hook, and simply say what they want to say.
Not Bode Miller.
Those who told Miller how he must feel about how he skied, or how much he must enjoy a particular facet of the competition, learned that they didn’t know what they thought they knew. Bode bristled. He confronted. He told them they were wrong.
Conversely, those who asked Miller more open-ended questions about how he felt he skied, or what it was like to fly sideways at 60 mph toward a crowd of wide-eyed fans received fascinating five-minute dissertations on the topics.
Unfortunately, Miller’s sometimes prickly nature, and his well-publicized penchant for enjoying a night (or several nights) out on the town, have tarnished his image in the U.S.
When he failed to medal in the 2006 Torino Olympics, the mainstream viewing public was outraged by Miller’s dismissive attitude, and by his late-night antics.
An important fact to consider: This is the same public that pays virtually no attention to Miller nor to his sport, except during a two-week period that occurs every four years.
And this was the same public that was calling him a failure, and a disappointment, and a disgrace.
A chief complaint for many was that they, as fans, seemed to care more about Miller’s Olympic success than Miller himself did.
Here we are, four years later, and Miller is back in the Olympics, racing well, and buffing some of the sharp edges off his jagged legacy.
For years his peers have described Miller as one of the best ski racers ever.
Now, in Vancouver, Miller is showing casual fans why.
He’s racing brilliantly … and he’s staying out of the media spotlight after hours.
Perhaps most important, however, is this: This time around, Miller is acting like he actually cares about his Olympic performance as much as his nation’s fans care.
That’s all many of us wanted to see four years ago.
Cabin Fever Reliever on tap
If the rain, snow and wind have got you down, don’t fret: Spring is nearly, almost, kind of upon us. And beginning this weekend, you can start attending outdoors shows that will inspire you to begin planning all kinds of cool adventures.
Yes, it’s nearly outdoor expo season, and as they always do, the Penobscot Fly Fishers will kick things off with this week’s Cabin Fever Reliever.
The show will be held at the Brewer Auditorium, and runs from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday, and from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Admission is free, door prizes will be awarded, and a variety of exhibitors and speakers will be on hand.
The show is a low-key, hands-on affair, and attendees are invited to take their time and chat with exhibitors.
While attendees at some of the larger shows may feel like they’ve got to keep moving so that they see everything, the Cabin Fever Reliever is much smaller (and perhaps friendlier).
A total of 46 exhibitors will be on hand to talk about hunting, fishing, art, dogs, fly tying, and conservation. If you really want to be humbled, stop by the McKay Brothers Fly Tying booth, where young Tait and Jax McKay will teach you how to tie.
Sculptor Forest Hart and David Klausmeyer, the editor of Fly Tyer magazine, are among the noted exhibitors.
For a complete list of seminars and exhibitors, go to www.cabinfeverreliever.com.
In the coming weeks, other sporting expos are on tap. Here’s a partial schedule:
— 72nd Eastern Maine Sportsman’s Show at the University of Maine, Orono, March 12-14.
— 6th Pine Tree State Sportsman Show at the Nichols Expo Center in Wilton, March 19-21.
— Presque Isle Fish and Game Club Sportsman’s Show at the University of Maine-Presque Isle, March 27-28.
— 29th State of Maine Sportsman’s Show at the Augusta Civic Center, April 2-4.